Public Engagement – Is Your Current Plan Competitive?


What makes your museum or nonprofit destination compelling to visitors?  Why should someone spend time interacting with the life of your institution when there are so many choices and offerings from the nonprofit world, the for-profit entertainment industry, schools, universities, and every entity in between?

The “if we build it they will come” philosophy is hard to eliminate in many organizations, precisely because those who direct and lead museums know they have an obligation to educate and help audiences focus on what’s important. Balancing what’s important with what is popular (and these are often different) is an ongoing, age-old dilemma, and many museums/historic properties/nature centers/botanical gardens/science centers have worked hard to keep a balance.

While some museums give their audiences ways to customize their interactions and learning activities, others are still wondering if it’s worth it, too time-consuming, and if stakeholders will see these choices as an abdication of responsibility.

Is your public engagement effort working?  What does excellent public engagement look like for your institution?  How are you gauging success?  For smaller museums and nature centers another question is this one: should you follow the established models or strike out and create something fresher and, perhaps, more effective?

From compelling exhibits people seek out, to methods of layering learning with socializing/entertainment – there is not one answer to creating an institution that is widely consumed, loved, and appreciated.  But there is an answer for your organization.  Have you found it yet?

Most organizations have their audiences segmented according to age, socio-economic status, ethnic considerations, and other groups.  Does this segmentation help your public engagement goals?

It’s no longer OK to say you are all things to all people, unless you are.  It is no longer OK to say you serve everyone (and then serve no one strongly enough to celebrate success.) Is it OK to tout your success with children if the largest demographic in your community is left wanting?

Your stakeholders and donors want to hear your success in numbers, but they also want to hear that your success made a difference, an impact, to the lives of individuals.

Leadership responsibility (mission-related work)
Meeting audiences where they are/what they want
Delight (the wow, ah ha, fun, tickled reaction)
Public Engagement with a Five Star Rating

Jan McKay & Associates can help you take a new look at public engagement, including your programming, volunteer management, public programming and community relations.

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Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 museums, nonprofits, public relations

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